Doug Cohen

Why feature one product when you can feature five? Why highlight one promotion when you can highlight three?  If you’ve ever found yourself asking these questions then you have likely considered, or even implemented, a content carousel.

What Is A Content Carousel?

Content carousels can be broadly defined as a slideshow that rotates vertically or horizontally. On the surface, they seem like a great way to fit a large amount of content into a small amount of real estate. In reality, the benefits of presenting more content using a carousel are often outweighed by usability issues and the lack of focus they reveal.  

Like everything else on your site, carousels have their time and place. If you haven’t given much thought to your current use of carousels then you might want to consider whether you are hurting overall site performance by not doing so.

Whether you are considering adding a carousel to your site or optimizing one that is already there, here are some testing ideas for you to consider:

Carousel vs. Static Image – Did I mention that not everyone loves carousels? A carousel may engage first-time visitors, but your repeat customers might prefer a simpler page that loads faster and provides links directly to relevant content.

Order of Frames – Don’t assume that everyone sees the first frame and don’t assume that visitors will still be there when the carousel starts over. As a result, your highest priority content might be missed by a large portion of visitors.

Speed – The actual speed that your carousel rotates is dependent upon a number of factors that are out of your control (e.g. processor speed, memory, bandwidth) but you might see some interesting results when you try speeding up or slowing down the relative speed of your carousel. Consider testing the duration of each frame as well as the speed of transitions between frames.

Navigation – Not unlike the rest of your site, your carousel needs clear and consistent navigation. At a minimum, test the location and design of your play, pause and replay buttons.

Measures of Success – Carousels are often considered a “black hole” when it comes to tracking within most analytics products, but you really should be measuring as many of the following as possible:

  • Click-through Rate – Assuming your carousel includes links and a call-to-action, make sure that you are able to measure how users are interacting with them.
  • Page Load Time – Make sure that the benefits of your carousel are not being outweighed by increased load time.
  • Time on Page (Dwell) – Do you know how long visitors typically spend on the pages where you have a carousel? Does speeding up your carousel change how long visitors remain on the page?

What Do You Think?

Do you already have a content carousel on your site? If so, have you tested the impact of removing it for some of your visitors (e.g. repeat customers)? Have you tested any changes to your carousel that impacted your primary success metrics?

Tags: A/B & Multivariate Testing